Palma Half Marathon 2014 – report

I first thought about entering the Palma Half in 2013 but for one reason or another, the plan never got off the ground. It just seemed to tick the too difficult to do box so the idea was shelved. Then 2014 arrived and my quest to run 13 Half marathons in a year was conceived. I had no annual holiday planned so I put the question, “Do you fancy a week in the sun?” to “Husband who plays golf”.

Now like most men, he is happy to go on holiday as long as:

  1. He doesn’t have to choose the location
  2. Book the accommodation
  3. Book the flights
  4. Pack the bags
  5. Upload photo’s onto the computer

His contribution will be as:

  1. The driver
  2. The person who holds my hand when the turbulence gets bad
  3. Sorter out of any maintenance problems (blocked plug holes etc)
  4. Main Photographer
  5. Oh and main man in the sandcastle department when the kids were small.

Seeing as this system has worked for the past 30 years I have stuck to it and marital harmony continues to exist.

So with flights booked from Exeter, an apartment rented via Owners Direct and race entered on line, the Palma Half was all systems go!

Before departing the UK on Tuesday 14th October I checked the weather forecast for Palma.  It stated that it would be cloudy with rain and thunder on our arrival and from then on it would be sunshine and cloud with a max temperature of 26 and a minimum of 13. Now that sounded great and also just about manageable for race day. As long as it stayed dry I would be happy.

The flight with Thomson’s was excellent and we arrived on time to find the forecast was correct. The skies were leaden with no view of the mountains. Rain was definitely heading our way.

Once we located our one suitcase it was off to try out the local bus service into Palma. No Taxi’s or hotel transfers for us, just a good old bus. 6 euro’s and 30 minutes later, we were stood inside our apartment looking out over a children’s park and the sea. Sadly the Autopista De Llevant runs between the park and the sea, but it didn’t detract from the view.

In true GB grey and wet weather we head out to find our bearings, food and most importantly wine for the evening. I am not a great fan of choosing restaurants when on holiday. I find it extremely stressful and often disappointing, so for me the challenge of “ready steady cook” with whatever local products I can find is all part of the fun. It is of course always assisted by trying the local red which in Majorca is excellent.

Historic Palma
Historic Hana (ahem, Historic Palma)

Palma as a city is wonderful. The old town is full of narrow cobbled streets full of history with tall, beautiful architecture ranging from hundreds of years old to art deco/modernist ones. Around every corner you will find a “Placa” or square to you and I, where the cafe/Tapas culture is buzzing. There are of course tacky tourist shops to be found alongside brand names like Mango and H&M, but then again Rolex, Louis Vuitton and designer clothes shops exist close by making it a shoppers’ heaven. My heaven though is in the food markets. One at Mercat de L’olivar and the other at Mercat de Santa Catalina. This is a cook’s heaven, but not recommended for any squeamish vegetarians.

Palma fish market
Market

Some aisles are full of sumptuous fresh fruit and vegetables, and then you move across to the cheeses, cured meat, olives and nuts. Tapas and sushi bars mingle alongside, with locals chatting and eating whatever time of day you visit. Then the best section, the fish and meat stalls. The fish is so fresh one display was still moving. I did feel sorry for the small fish wriggling about frantically trying to take a breath, but “daughter who murders fish in Alaska” does say that fish twitch for quite a while after being hit over the head with a baseball bat. Steph you would hate the next section, the fresh meat. There I could have bought whole suckling pigs, pigs ears, heads, chicken with heads still on or just their claws, Tripe, hearts, tongues, heads and bits of innards that I have no idea from whence they have come or what I would do with them, but the locals are there buying it all. If only I could speak Spanish and find out more. [Fine by me Hana – and so much more of the animal is consumed, which has to be a good thing.  Reminds me that my mum used to boil pig’s heads.  Yes, maybe that’s why I’m vegetarian!]

 

I purchase the freshest Tuna I’ve ever had and some corn fed chicken, I would have bought rabbit but reminded myself we are only here for the week, I must not buy too much as it won’t travel home in the suitcase very well. I decide to give the pig’s ears, cow’s stomach, rabbit heads and ox tongue a miss, as self-catering kitchen equipment and my constitution might not be up to that challenge.

We spend the days before the race with beautiful sunshine, clear blue skies, azure sea and scorching heat starting at 27 and rising to nearly 34 degrees by the end of the week. We take the old fashioned train to Soller and then the tram to Port de Soller. We chill out on coffee and local cake (a favourite past time of mine wherever I am in the world) each day, and we walk miles along the seafront boulevard where there is also an off road cycle path. A few hours are spent on the quiet strip of beach a mere 5 minutes walk from the apartment where I get up to date with what Nick Stone is doing in the world of Andy McNab’s thrillers. Bliss.

On Friday 17th a selection of tents appear in the area under our apartment’s window and more around the lake below Palma Cathedral. This is the race village, where I am to collect my race number F4039. Should I want a race memento T Shirt this will cost me an additional 25 Euros. They may be very nice shirts but my running clothes drawer at home is full of them, the ones that have been given as part of my race entry fees, so I will not be buying one today, that’s for sure. A medal at the finishing line will have to do.

I join a queue to enter the race number collection zone and the predominant language around me is German. In fact German seems to be about the only language we have heard, other than Spanish, since arriving in Majorca. I work out where I need to go, I’m presented with a Palma Marathon bag with my race number on, my race number with my name on and a timing chip. I had to pay extra when entering the race to hire this chip and on pain of death or bankruptcy I must return this timing device at the end of the race!

To leave this zone, you then had to confirm all your details displayed on a computer screen and hey presto, I now have one timing device now primed and ready for action, more than I can say for myself, having been for a trial run one afternoon at about 4:30 whilst “Husband who plays golf” played in the sea. I managed 5.5 miles before the heat defeated me. Whatever possessed me to enter a race in a sunshine destination……… alcohol probably, or delusion?

My pre race supper was cooked by yours truly and involved lots of beautiful Mediterranean vegetables, local corn fed chicken, amazing baked potatoes and lots of olive oil. To aid digestion a very pleasant bottle of Red was shared between the two of us and for pudding the mossies ate me instead. I’m still itching now.

Sleep was not good that night. I was hot and restless so when 6am arrived I got up and made my usual bowl of porridge with honey and banana today and watched the sun come up. It was going to be another scorcher that was for sure and my heart went out to those who had entered the marathon, something I actually contemplated until husband said “You’ll dissolve”. Never a truer word spoken!

I didn’t have far to walk to the start line, as I could see it from my bedroom window (I did my homework before renting the apartment) along with a row of about 15 blue portable toilets of the Spanish variety. I was in fact so close to the starting area that there would be no need for me to use these water closets. So sadly for you “toilet review fans” there will be none in this race report/War andPeace I’m afraid.

Race day consists of 4 events.

  1. 0900 the Marathon starts, of which I think there were about 1500 runners.
  2. 0910 the 10K starts, of which there were about 3000 runners.
  3. 0920 the Half Marathon starts, of which I think there were about 4000 runners
  4. 0930 the Nordic walking event (with or without the Nordic part) numbers unknown due to me not listening to the man on the microphone.

Husband joins me for a quick stroll around to see where I’m supposed to go. My race number states zone D. Husband takes pre race photo and the air temperature feels rather nice. I feel a little excited and start to wonder if I could actually achieve a PB as the course does not involve real hills. I kiss husband and send him off to do whatever he wants to do, but with strict orders to be back within 2hrs. Time to nip back to the apartment for one last pre race nerves bladder check, eat two squares of Kendal mint Cake and then wait in Zone D.

So there I am, all alone in a world of my own with TRC running vest on, when I’m approached by a very tanned male of slightly younger age (wasn’t grey like this old croc) who says “It’s Hana isn’t it”? Oh my god, there is no way that someone who has read one of my reports could possibly recognise me out here……. surely not? “My names Simon” I obviously have a blank expression on my face so he goes on to explain that he is a member of TRC and knew I was running this race, so whilst out with the Triathlon lot, 30 minutes down the coast, he thought he would pop over and enter this race. Sadly no TRC race vest, but we were now a team, a team of two.

After a short while some sort of race briefing started, some music started and the marathon lot were sent on their way. Then it was the turn of all the 10K runners. Our turn soon arrived and off we went. I managed to start my Garmin on the timing mat and then it was the usual weaving around slower runners and a huge crowd of men wearing matching red shirts with what looked a military physique, oh and a military insignia on their shirts. A slim male dressed in Union jack running tights and curly red white and blue wig, passed me on my left but everywhere else appeared to be filled with Germanic runners.

Palma Half Marathon Runners 2014
There’s always one!

The route took us out along Avinguda Gabriel Roca passing the Port then Real Club Nautico (this is not a football club this is a marina where the average value of the tugs parked in it start at £1 million a metre and the average price would have been upward of £10 million. Some were the size of a small cruise liner and probably registered to the Cayman Islands). Now I’m no fan of sailing but these boats were something else……but as for actually taking them out to sea, we didn’t see many move whilst we were out there.

Palma, marina
Marina

Suddenly I spot a face in the crowd I know, Husband who plays golf is there with camera, and an action shot is taken. Hopefully it’s not of my rear end, but I try to look happy and wave my hands frantically as if I’m having fun.

The first 10K was an out and back route with a loop around an area with an old military fort that Husband and I had visited the day before. There was no shade, the air temperature was HOT, very HOT and I coped with the slight hill up to the fort even if my temperature gauge had blown a fuse. My pace was OK and things were OK-ish but my body was warning me that I may have to rethink what I was currently doing, because if I didn’t this race may finish sooner than anticipated. So at water station I actually took a slug of water then tipped the rest over my head and security hanky. God that felt so good, even if my vision out of my “Cool dude” shades was now impaired.

Hana in 'cool dude' shades
Cool Dude in action!

At 7K there was a catering point. It was like an “eat all you can buffet” I’m sure I saw pizza slices, apples banana’s and other stuff, but food was not what I was hoping for. Shade was what I needed.

Conversation with other runners wasn’t an option apart from when a Brit would overtake and offer words of encouragement. At 11K we ran past some rather smelly drains, which could have turned the stomach, then it was off into the town we all ran.

After the first couple of K the race started to spread out so everyone had more room and less chance of tripping over other people’s feet, but it was whenever you ran through a catering point that things got tricky. It was as if a large primate tea party had taken place with banana skins, apples and water bottles scattered liberally over the now wet paving. This scene could have been from an episode of “It’s a knockout” (sorry but some of you might be too young to remember this program, sadly I’m not).

The next 7K is mostly in the shade. Along cobbled or paved streets through the old part of Palma. We pass Placa Cort and once again Husband is there to catch a moment when I’m looking pooped out. I suddenly feel overcome with the heat. I’ve by this point poured 5 bottles of water over my head and have also actually swallowed 5 mouthfuls of water, which is something new for me. I can feel a stitch coming on, so walk for about a minute but it feels like 10.

At about 18K we pass below the apartment we are renting and it’s very tempting to just pop inside and lie down in a darkened room for an hour or two. I start to wonder how on earth the marathon runners are going to cope in this heat and unrelenting sun because from now on there is no more shade.

Just after 19K the race splits in two, with the marathon runners turning left out beyond Portitxol and Ciutat Jardi [did you just make those words up Hana?!], but their route back to the finish is all along a long boulevard with the sea and beach to their left. The Half Marathon bears right back along the main road and I can see the finishing line, but no, we run past this and have to do a loop near the port, passing the stinky drains twice before heading back to the start/finish line.

I’m heat exhausted, but I try a final sprint to the line. It’s very feeble, but I manage a smile and wave my arms again in the air at the official photographer. Why do I do this? It must be my age.

I’m handed my medal, I grab two bottles of water and there stood by the railings is Simon H, the other half of the TRC team with a beer in his hand. We hug, he’s beaten me but shares his beer which, even if it was o% alcohol, was chilled and tasted amazing. No time wasted I head straight for the beer tent and grab two more, One for me, and one for my very patient “husband, who plays golf”.

So I try to phone the husband to find out where he is, but some nice Spanish woman tells me this is not possible. I text him and say “I’m stood by the sea” well that was a stupid text, because the whole island is surrounded by sea and I was stood on the seafront that stretches for about 8 miles or more! I look up and about 15 feet away from me I spy one lonely male with camera slung around his neck trying to read the text I’ve sent him. Shouting is so much more efficient!

Hana and Si, Palma Half Marathon 2014
Hana (in Race Tart mode!) and Si

So time for a team photo and a team snog, all done in the best of spirits and fully witnessed by the public and my husband through his camera lens. The race is over, I feel exhausted and slightly deflated as part of me believes I should have tried harder. But maybe if I had, I might have ended up like the girl I helped at the Tavy 13. She never made the finishing line other than in an ambulance on the way to A&E.

So my time wasn’t bad at 1:54:34 I was 23rd out 170 V50 females and 209th out of 1179 females. I can live with that.

So all in all:

  1. Race HQ was a village of tents where you collected your race number.
  2. Toilets. Portable and available but quality and wait time unknown
  3. Marshals, plenty and loads cycling alongside as well.
  4. The route was on all closed roads and scenic
  5. Water stations and buffet bar fantastic
  6. Support from the crowd. Amazing and seeing as my race number had my name on people even shouted out my name.
  7. Memento. Just a shoe/duffle bag and a medal
  8. Post race facilities. Changing tents, shower tents. Free 0% alcohol beer, biscuits, fruit water and coke.
  9. Would I run this race again? Yes, but I don’t think I can justify the expense when there are others to try.

It was a fantastic week away, amazing holiday weather, wonderful food and even with the post race effects of the heat which meant my legs seized, I had no dehydration headache………I think it was the fabulous Majorcan Red Wine.. Sunday’s was 14.5% and tasted divine!

9 out of 10 Palma.

Hana